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Lesson 4i: Steps to Empowerment

Objective: Overcome blame and anger with forgiveness

The key to empowerment is not the Nike logo "Just Do It."  If it was this easy then everyone would "Just Do It" and feel empowered.  The key is to understand what is getting in the way of feeling empowered.  In other words, what is holding you back? 

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
- Mahatma Gandhi

What sometimes holds people back is blame; people give their power away through blame.  When we blame someone else for our problems, we give that other person power over us.  Blaming others is a way of living in the past and allowing past events to define us.  A healthier approach is to take responsibility for our problems and to work in the present to try to solve them.  Rather than wasting energy blaming others, take action in the present and reclaim your power.

There is a four-step forgiveness process to overcome past obstacles in your life.   In this process, it is important to see how you blame others for the feelings and thoughts that you have.   It is important to distinguish between a past event and how you use that event to influence our current situation.  Bill Riedler in his course "Understanding Yourself and Others" teaches a four-step process to forgiveness that is basically:

  1. Own up to what you blame someone for.
  2. Take responsibility for how you feel.
  3. Realize what it has cost you for blaming them.
  4. Take one step to change the situation.
Anger makes you smaller, while forgiveness forces you to grow beyond what you were.
- Cherie Carter-Scott

For example, when I was 5 years old, a boy kicked a rock that hit my right eye, causing me to lose sight in that eye.  Even though the event happened to me over 30 years ago, I have used that event to hold myself back at various times in my life.  I chose to see myself as disabled at times and held myself back from participating in high school sports and being in large groups.  I tended to isolate myself in school because I did not trust those who reminded me of the boys who kicked the rock into my eye. 

I will lead you through an example of the forgiveness process using my event.  To make this example more meaningful for you, pick a person or situation in which you have been using blame but now want to use forgiveness.

  • Step 1: "What I have been blaming you for is my......" This is not blaming them for the event but for your feelings and thoughts about the event that have kept the event alive for you.   For example, I have been blaming the boys for my feeling of sadness about being disabled.  I blamed the boys for my feelings of isolation -- not being a part of a group. 

    Note, the event is in the past and can not change.  What this step looks at is your feelings about the event that you can change in the present.

  • Step 2: "My part in it is ....." This is about taking ownership of what happened after the event.  For example, my part in it is that I believed that I was disabled and did not fight for my right to join an after-school sport.  My parents showed me an article about how one boy sued New York state for the right to participate in sports even though the state classified him as disabled.  I however said it was not worth the effort and gave up.  I used my disability as an excuse not to play sports and remain isolated.

    This should not be about beating yourself up for past mistakes, but rather looking at ways where you can change your thoughts to get a different result.

  • Step 3: "What it has cost me is ....." This is about understanding what you could have in your life if you stopped letting the situation keep you hostage.  For example, in my situation, it has cost me happiness and feeling included. 

    In order to change your thoughts, you need to see what you could have if your thoughts and outlook were different.  In addition, it is about knowing that you stayed in the current situation because it served you in one way or another.  In my case, I received pity from others due to my disability (also a reason for self-pity).  This third step points out the benefits and rewards of change and provides motivation to make that change.

  • Step 4: "What you can count on me for is ....." Think of one action that you will do to start the process to change.  For example, I can be counted on to seek out opportunities to be part of a group, thus ending my isolation.  This was an action step that I took years ago that got me involved with larger groups and gave me an opportunity to see myself for who I am rather than viewing myself as disabled, sitting on the sidelines.

    I would suggest that you come up with only one thing at a time that you want to change.  If you choose too many up front and do not complete them, you will become discouraged and remain stuck.

  • The last part is to say, "I forgive you and set myself free, unless I choose to use you to imprison myself again."  This emphasizes that you have a choice of how you use the event.  And, you can just as easily choose it again to hold yourself back again.  So, on a daily basis, you need to consciously release it to move on.  Blame is an addiction and just as dangerous as a drug.  It can tear you down if you become addicted to it.
"Forgiveness is almost a selfish act because of its immense benefits to the one who forgives."
- Lawana Blackwell

Note, forgiveness is not about the other person (letting them off the hook), it is about giving yourself permission to move past the event and the feelings that have held you back. 

How does this apply to financial situations?  Think about how you blame others for a lose of job, lose of money in an investment or feeling that government is not doing enough to help you or others out. 

Is forgiveness really linked to empowerment?  If you have not seen the steps to empowerment above, look at how the two are linked:

Steps for Forgiveness
Steps to Empowerment
What have I blamed you for? Where have I given my power away?
My part in it is? How could I have been more powerful?
What has it cost me? What is the reason to change my current situation?
You can count of me to be ... I will take action by ...

So why should one practice forgiveness instead of empowerment?  Empowerment is meant to increase energy, yet there may be a reason (blame) why your are always being held back from reaching your goal.  Forgiveness is meant to remove the resistance, so that you can reach your goal.  The question is would it be easier to push an object over a smooth surface with no resistance (e.g., ice) or a surface that is bumpier with more resistance (concrete)?

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